The baseball field at the King Greenleaf Recreation Center in Southwest was a field of dreams Saturday as a group of D.C. schoolchildren received backpacks and bundles of school supplies during a community festival hosted by a trio Georgetown graduates who started a company four years ago to empower youth.
And while much of Southwest is occupied by construction cranes, condominiums and residents living in an old enclave for the military and federal workers, Darius Baxter, Troye Bullock and Danny Wright have made it possible for 200 youth to take part in a summer camp that trains them to believe in themselves regardless of where they are from.
“This is a celebration because we sent 200 kids to camp with no cost to their parents,” said Baxter, chief engagement officer for GOODProjects, which he, Bullock and Wright started four years ago to support the communities that supported them after they graduated from Georgetown University.
According to their mission statement, GOODProjects provides opportunities daily for youth and their families to live fulfilling lives free from poverty and violence, with improvements to their health and wellness.
The firm started GOODCamps in summer 2016 to combat gun violence in D.C., by getting at-risk children off the streets and into summer camp where they combine academics, experiential learning and sports.
“After my father was gunned down, I committed my life to ridding my community of the constant threats of violence I feared growing up,” Baxter said on the organization’s website. “I want to provide opportunities to young people so they never have to go through what I did at such a young age.”
In an interview Saturday, Baxter said when he started working with young people, he taught them lessons he never got as a child.
“My father is not dead, he is in my spirit,” he said. “He is in my mother’s spirit.”
Bullock, the chief operating officer of GOODProjects, said they gave out more than 400 book bags, 2,500 notebooks, pens and papers and 1,500 hamburgers on Saturday.
“We wanted to get as many people out as possible to get them ready for the school year,” Bullock said. “This is one of the first phases of our overall plan to work with families in the Greenleaf, Syphax and in James Creek communities to get them on a path of self-sufficiency. There is a lot of economic development. There is a lot of gentrification. What we want to do is bring people who have been here the longest back into the fold.”
Wright, who was born to two 15-year-old parents, said he is driven to help families in similar positions.
“We started [the company] when we were 21 and 22, [and] a lot of the nuances that families face in D.C., we faced,” he said. “Our parents didn’t give us money to start this — we built it from the ground up.”
Nathaniel “Skip” Greene, a longtime employee at the Greenleaf Recreation Center who joined the GOODProjects team, said no child is turned away.
“We come and take the worst of the worst and make them the best of the best,” Green said of GOODProjects. “We are out here to get these kids to childhood and from childhood to adulthood.”